Victorian Government answers VFF call on rural communications

Victorian Government answers VFF call on rural communications

VFF has won $23 million from the Victorian State Government to invest in improving rural telecommunications.

The Victorian State Government announced in its 2017-18 Budget that the Mobile Black Spot Program will be topped up by $11 million, while $12 million will go towards internet-enabled on-farm technologies.

“Rural and regional communities account for seven per cent of Australia’s population, and we need to make sure that they receive the same quality phone service as their metropolitan counterparts,” Victorian Farmers Federation Vice President Brett Hosking said.

“There are a lot of people in rural areas who are frustrated by the lack of service, and this funding will help build vital infrastructure that is not only essential to helping farmers run their businesses, but can also save lives.”

Mr Hosking also praised a $500,000 commitment over the 2017/2018 financial year to restart the Rural Women’s Network.

“Women on farms are crucial to better farming businesses, with over 80 per cent of rural women providing key roles. However, lack of networks and mentoring for rural women has resulted in limited exposure to leadership positions in agriculture,” he said.

“The VFF has actively promoted opportunities for rural women and a coordinated network will support these opportunities and establish leadership pathways for rural women.”

But the farmer group raised concerns about a projected $110 million investment that would be used to construct a timber plantation in the Latrobe Valley.

Mr Hosking said incentives for timber plantations must not distort the land use market and force out agriculture in favour of plantations.

‘The Gippsland region is an important and reliable producer of valuable agricultural production and farmers need to be on a level playing field.’

“The La Trobe Valley is prime agricultural land, and if the Victorian Government does create a timber plantation in the area it would be best achieved through the use of public land,” he said.